Sandy Hook

Sandy Hook

Sunday, August 23, 2009

LBJ Would Have Lassoed that Ole Health Care Bull

Funny how one's thoughts can pop up in another place by another person and at the same time. Yesterday, as an aside, I commented on Parsley's Pics that "if LBJ were president, I really feel that he would succeed in getting HC reform passed. He knew how to twist those arms." Whether or not you liked Johnson is not the issue - he was a master politician, the quintessential political animal.

A couple of hours later I'm sniffing around the competition, aka my favorite blogs, when I come across a piece on The Daily Beast by Tom Johnson, How Lyndon Would have Passed Health-Care Reform. Our young president could take a how-to lesson from the man who was responsible for designing the "Great Society" legislation that included laws that upheld civil rights, Medicare, Medicaid, aid to education, and his attempt to help the poor in his "War on Poverty." (Wikipedia) Unfortunately another kind of war was his Waterloo.

Tom Johnson lists 18 steps LBJ would have taken to ensure the passage of health care reform.

Have a list of every member of Congress on his desk.

He would be on the telephone with members and their key staffers constantly: "Your president really needs your vote on this bill."

He would have a list of every special request every member wanted, from White House tours to appointments to federal jobs and commissions.

He would make phone calls or have an in-person visit with every member individually or in a group—charts, graphs, coffee. They would get the Johnson Treatment as nobody else could give it.

He would express a willingness to horse-trade with every member.

He would have Billy Graham calling Baptists, Cardinal Cushing calling Catholics, Dr. King calling blacks, [Texas Congressman] Henry Gonzales calling Hispanics, Henry Ford and David Rockefeller calling Republicans.

He would get Jack Valenti to call the pope if it would help.

He would have speeches written for members for the Congressional Record and hometown newspapers.

He would use up the White House liquor having nightcaps with the leaders and key votes of BOTH parties.

Each of them would take home cufflinks, watches, signed photos, and perhaps even a pledge to come raise money for their next reelection.

He would send gifts to children and grandchildren of members.

He would walk around the South Lawn with reporters telling them why this was important to their own families.

He would send every aide in the White House to see every member of the House and Senate. He would send me to see Senator Richard Russell and Rep. Carl Vinson because I am a Georgian.

He would call Kay Graham, [CBS president] Frank Stanton, [NBC president] Robert Kintner, and the heads of every network.

He would do newspaper, radio, and TV interviews.

He would go to pray at six different churches.

He would threaten, cajole, flirt, flatter, hug, and get the bill passed.


  1. Without seeking to minimize Johnson's ability to keep the core of his own party in line, his real advantage in passing the Great Society and civil rights legislation was one no liberal legislation has had since Nixon.

    Nelson Rockefeller.

    Rockefeller was the last liberal Republican who actually controlled a key bloc of votes that would enable the center-left to break the conservative gridlock on both sides of the aisle.

    These days, they're all moderate Democrats. Even Rockefeller's kids.

  2. I remember that and I remember how he was booed at the RNC one year. Well, he died happy, or with Happy?

  3. LOL

    That one is just good. It's depressing that it took me a moment to remember his wife's name. I pride myself on my reservoir of snotty trivia.

    The more and more time passes, the more and more that I think another Nelson Rockefeller would be much better for the liberal wing of the Democratic Party than another JFK, FDR, or LBJ.

  4. Oh, I don't know if agree with that. Once we got past Kennedy's looks and charisma I don't think he would have made a very strong president. But FDR and LBJ were both innovative and they had what it took to get congress to pass needed legislation. They weren't always successful but they were a hell of a lot better than what we've seen over the last few decades.

    I was mistaken about NR. Happy was his wife's name. Allegedly the woman who was under him when he died was 27 year old Megan Marshak.

  5. Yes, Happy was his wife's name. I totally forgot about the other entirely.

    FDR and LBJ were both dependent on the left flank of the Republican Party (Roosevelt on Bob LaFollette Jr's 'Roosevelt Republicans' even before the term became popular during WWII and LBJ on the Rockefeller Republicans) to pass their legislation. Much like our Clintons and Obamas, the liberal wing of the Democratic Party was held hostage by Southern and Midwestern conservatives. The difference is that while the Dems still have a right wing, the GOP no longer has a left wing. They have all gone over to the Dems.

    Without the ability to cross the aisle on the left, today's Democratic Party is screwed all kinds of ways.

    If Nelson Rockefeller was the great Republican liberal of the 20th century, who made certain that needed reform passed despite his own party, then Ben Nelson is the great conservative counterpart to Rockefeller in the 21st century. He helps the GOP stall reform.